Central PA 4th Fest

Organizers keep close watch on items for massive fireworks display

sannarelli@centredaily.comJuly 2, 2014 

Three weeks prior to the Central PA 4th Fest fireworks show, Kevin Barr patrolled the restricted fireworks area for dog walkers, joggers, students and professionals going to and from campus.

Barr, who retired from law enforcement three years ago, informed passers-by of the impending setup of the festival’s pyrotechnics and fencing, and asked them to avoid the area. It’s his second year of coordinating security and safety for the fireworks show at the end of the festival.

“I try to have conversations with people to give them a date span from this point to this point, so that they know it’ll be closed,” Barr said. “What I see most of is people walking their dog, or running or just trying to get to and from work or to and from school. This year, I told them what area would be closed from June 21to July 7, and I think that has cut down on people trying to get through.”

The 24-hour security team of 30 that Barr manages has guarded the restricted fireworks area from the time that equipment arrived, and will continue through July 7 — when he expects that clean-up volunteers will have cleared the field of shells.

Kurt Weibel, the festival’s operations coordinator, said that an orange security fence and a chain-link fence were erected two weeks ago to prevent spectators from entering the restricted fireworks area. Pyrotechnics for nearly 12,000 shells were then placed within the restricted area.

While Weibel said that multiple security volunteers survey the restricted fireworks area at all times, he declined to comment on the locations where they’re stationed, citing public safety.

“If everyone knew too much, then there’s no security,” Weibel said. “The less people know, the better off and safer we are.”

Volunteers began to put shells in place a week before the fireworks show.

“As we get closer, we might have some curious people that want to get a look at what we’re doing, but it’s been fairly mundane here,” Barr said. “For the show, we get more curious people that want to get a closer look at the fireworks, and we get them out immediately.”

The festival security team will arrive in waves for the fireworks show. Some volunteers will guard the fenced-in pyrotechnics; others will be undercover in the crowd to observe spectators. Bernie Keisling, the festival’s executive director, said he expects 60,000 to 80,000 people to attend the festival and fireworks show.

Ken Fohringer, who has been one of the festival’s pyrotechnic coordinators for 15 years, said that festival organizers have also taken steps to provide security for the crowd.

“For instance, we have water barricades set up that would prevent someone trying to drive a car through the crowd,” he said.

Barr said that their top priority is to keep spectators safe.

“The goal,” he said, “is to keep people at a safe distance from the time we start setup and maintain it through cleanup.”

Shawn Annarelli can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @shawn_annarelli.

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